Editoon Excellence

Posted by on February 5th, 2010 at 2:22 PM

Every once in a while—but more often than you might suppose—I run across a truly magnificent editorial cartoon. The one above, by Daryl Cagle of Cagle Cartoons Syndicate, is one of the best. As I mentioned once before, when I peruse editorial cartoons, I look for imagery that carries a message memorably, or a visual metaphor that does the same. And Cagle’s Miss Liberty at the body scanner does that in at least two layers.

First, we have the security peeping toms, who are sniggering in bug-eyed lascivious delight at being able to see people naked, women particularly—exactly what so many of our Fellow Citizens fear about body scanning at airport security. So Cagle’s cartoon confirms that likely prospect while at the same time ridiculing it: the guards are laughable lechers—they look silly—so if they want to avoid looking silly, they ought to refrain from gawking at images of nude people on their scanning screens. They won’t refrain, of course: they’re only human after all. So body scanners will breed this kind of leering lickerishness—exactly what all the fearful Puritans suspect.

But on a second level, the cartoon gets serious. It’s Miss Liberty, symbol of the freedoms and personal liberties we all enjoy, whose privacy is being invaded here. So the other message of the cartoon is that body scanning infringes upon liberty and freedom. By taking a liberty, it takes liberty away, so to speak.

Nicely done, a multi-layered visual image, metaphor for the damage being done by our panicky response to every terrorist threat, whether successful or not. The Underpants Bomber failed, remember.

But wait! Miss Liberty’s nude! NEKID! How did that happen? How could Cagle get away with this Desecration of Everything America Stands For? Did he escape the usual Moral Protestation by the sex-cowed crowd because his nude doesn’t have nipples? —nipples, as we all know, being the Big Turn-on and the Big No-no all at once. So I asked him if he got any nasty feedback for his nasty picture, and he wrote back: “No. Nobody cares. If she was holding a Confederate Battle Flag at an abortion clinic in Gaza, I’d get mail.”

What a let-down. In the culture war, the Puritans have lost.

Changing the subject, here’s Luann for today, featuring Luann’s nerdy brother who has successfully captured the affections of the strip’s most beautiful (inside as well as outside) femme, Toni. Here, Brad is trying to find out whether Toni expects him to ask her to marry him, or some such. And she’s setting his mind at rest (and also providing cartoonist Greg Evans with a reprieve: he doesn’t need to give up to marriage one of the most successful storylines he has). (Dirk, by the way, was the massive thug who was Toni’s previous squeeze; Brad won her away from him.)

But the reason I bring this strip to your attention on this fond February Friday is to remark about a curiosity found in some cartooning. Notice that lines denoting Toni in the last panel are thicker than the lines defining Brad in the same panel. Why is that? Well, as any fool can tell you (I certainly can), it’s because Toni is closer to the camera, so everything about her must perforce seem larger, the lines that delineate her included. It’s as if in bringing Toni closer to the camera and thereby magnifying her size, the size of the lines must necessarily be magnified, too. It’s a mechanical thing: the lines are made larger by the sheer mechanics of moving Toni closer to the camera (or vice versa).

There is no other reason for the thicker lines. The “close up” does not, in and of itself, require that the lines be thicker. We could see Toni in this panel just as clearly if the lines were the same thickness as those outlining Brad in the same panel.

Lots of cartoonists turn in performances like this. I do, too. And I can’t explain it any better than I just did.

It’s an oddity not a sin.

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